Today we bring you an interview with the fabulous Aussie agent, Alex Adsett.
Alex runs an agency and publishing consultant company in Brisbane, Australia. According to her website; she offers publishing contract advice to authors, publishers and booksellers, and has more recently expanded into the more traditional role of literary agent. She has fifteen years experience working in the publishing and bookselling industry, as well as a solid background in legal research and contract drafting.
Hi Alex, welcome and thanks for joining me today.
- You’re not only a literary agent, but a publishing consultant as well. Can you tell us how the two roles differ?
I offer my contract advisory service to authors who need commercial advice, and this is usually in relation to a publishing contract. If the author has been successful in getting their own publishing contract, I help them negotiate the contract on a flat fee basis and then walk away. I first offer a written report on how the contract compares with industry standards and where it might be improved, and then the author can use that information to negotiate for themselves, or I can negotiate for them. There’s no judgment, I don’t need to love your manuscript – I just come in and do the job, being as much or as little involved as you want me to be.
As an agent, I do need to love the manuscript and my colleague and I are very selective about the titles we take on. An agent generally does three key things for an author: they place the manuscript with a publisher, they negotiate the contract, and then manage the author’s overall career (there’s lots more to it than that, but those are the core of it). Instead of any kind of fee, an agent gets a 10%-15% commission based on selling the author’s work. There should never be any upfront fees involved with agency work and the agent only gets paid their 15% commission if they have successfully found a home for the book. So the agency side of the business is where we read and read and read through the submissions, always looking for the next manuscript that will amaze us. There’s an awful lot of work, for only the ‘one day’ promise of an income, but we do it because we love it.
- I’ve been to one of your seminars on contract advice. It certainly seems there are a lot of issues that can arise. At which stage should an unagented author contact you if they wish to employ you as a publishing consultant?
Generally, I would get in touch earlier rather than later. As soon as any terms start getting discussed, that’s the best time to get hold of me. Publishers will usually discuss the big ticket items with you first, sometimes only by phone but usually followed up in an email or letter. Even though these terms are not yet part of a formal contract, once you have agreed to them, it is hard to renegotiate. You are not locked in to anything until you sign the contract, but if you have already said yes to a certain advance, royalty rate and territory, the publisher will expect this to stay as is. That’s not to say all the other terms are not negotiable, and you can always walk away before signing if you do not think this is the deal for you.
- Donning your agent hat, now… Does the role of a literary agent differ in Australia to elsewhere in the world?
Absolutely! In US and UK, almost everything that is published by traditional publishers has gone via an agent. In Australia, it is approximately only 40% that is published via an agent. Many authors love having an agent and would never consider leaving them, but in Australia an agent is a luxury not a necessity. If an author has got their own publishing deal and is confident managing their own career, they should consider whether or not an agent is right for them.
- Many Aussie publishers accept unagented submissions. What can an agent do for an aussie author that the author can’t achieve alone?
This is an excellent question, and sometimes the answer is ‘not much’. Saying that, although many publishers do accept open submissions now, it is still very (very, very) hard to get noticed and stand out of the publisher’s huge reading pile. An agent will get your manuscript read more quickly and taken more seriously than an unknown author can often do on their own.
The agent will generally know the right publisher to approach with your work, and perhaps submit you overseas as well as or instead of Australia. The agent is also someone always in your corner when things get tough and a professional sounding board for helping you build your career.
- What is selling right now in the Aussie Market?
You might need to ask the publishers and booksellers what is actually flying off the shelves, but I can see that romance sales are booming, and the digital-only publishers are doing a great job of feeding the demand for great quality romance authors. In the wake of Fifty Shades, erotica is still selling, and while the market is very full of rural romance, the established authors are still doing well. Sadly, dystopian YA, one of my favourite genres, is very unpopular with many publishers at the moment.
- For our authors who are interested in pitching to you, what would you love to see?
I’d love to see more strong ideas based science fiction and some strong crime novels.
- I noticed on your website, that you aren’t currently open to queries. Where will you be appearing this year if our writers would like to hear you speak or to pitch a manuscript?
I’m still locking things in for 2014, but I’ll be speaking on contracts and copyright in Mackay, Rockhampton and Bundaberg in July and Brisbane in September. I will hopefully be taking pitches at the Romance Writers Convention in August and taking pitches in Byron Bay Writers Centre in September. Keep an eye on our website (or twitter or facebook) for if we open submissions later in the year. I am also part of a program being run at the moment by Gold Coast Writers for authors to pitch the first 10 pages of their manuscript for professional feedback and advice http://goldcoastwritersworkshops.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/announcing-a-fantastic-new-manuscript-feedback-program-10-to-1/
Thanks for joining us, Alex.
Contracts and Consultancy – firstname.lastname@example.org
BUT WAIT! Do you like prizes?
To celebrate our first birthday, Aussie Owned and Read hosted a blog hop on Australia Day (check out the posts on our linky list here!). We also held a huge giveaway with a heap of great prizes that ends this week, so make sure you hop on over and enter today.
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Stacey Nash is a reader, writer, and lover of YA literature. Her debut novel, Forget Me Not releases 17 February 2014 from Entranced Publishing. You can find out more on Twitter or Facebook or on her Website